Summary: Joe’s encounter with an attractive young lady takes a turn into the unexpected. Something for the Halloween season.
Rated: K+ WC 1100
The Girl in the Blue Dress
He had passed the place many times without paying much attention . But today Joe Cartwright was most definitely taking notice of the figure that sat casually rocking on the front porch of the old cabin. It was a most attractive young lady who appeared to be about the same age as himself. She had a lovely heart-shaped face framed in short curly brown hair. Her simple dark blue dress was long-sleeved, and made of a fabric that seemed a little too heavy for the heat of the day. Yet she appeared perfectly cool and comfortable as she rocked away and gazed curiously at the young man riding toward her.
Joe gazed back with equal curiosity. As he approached the cabin his pinto, Cochise, drew to a halt without urging and began to tremble beneath him. Joe used his reins and heels to urge the reluctant animal forward and finally stopped directly in front of the porch. He raised his hand to the brim of his hat in a polite gesture.
“Hello, ma’am. My name’s Joe Cartwright. I was hoping you could spare a drink of water for me and my horse here. We’ve been out in the sun for hours and my canteen sprang a leak.”
The young lady rose from the rocking chair and moved toward him with eye-catching grace.
“I’m Kelly. You’re welcome to some water from the well here. Let me draw it for you.”
“No, let me.” Joe hastily dismounted and hurried to grab the crank on the side of the well. Very quickly he drew up a bucket of water, slaked his own thirst using a shiny ladle he found hanging there and offered the bucket to Cochise. The horse stirred uneasily, but soon accepted the water. Joe took the opportunity to look more closely at his new acquaintance. He could see now that her eyes were a clear light brown. He considered her pert nose to be adorable. As he took a final swallow of water and replaced the ladle on it’s nail, Joe was thinking of how tempting her bow shaped mouth looked and how much he would like to lean forward and give her a kiss. But no. Making such a move this quickly would be too bold, even for him. It would have to wait for another time. Right now the important thing was to ensure that there would be another time.
“Thank you, ma’am…. Kelly. That sure hit the spot.” He smiled at her with practiced charm and she smiled back shyly.
“Have you been living around here for long? I don’t remember seeing you before, and I wouldn’t forget a face as pretty as yours,” Joe said.
“I’ve been away….only just got back,” she replied.
They looked at each other, each seemingly wanting to say more but unsure of how to begin.
“Kelly….I’d really like to get to know you. Do you think it would be all right if I were to call on you, maybe come by to take you on a picnic or something?”
“I’d like that,” she said slowly. “But I don’t know….”
“Do you think your folks would have some objection?” he asked.
She still seemed hesitant. “They wouldn’t object,” she finally answered.
“Fine then. I’ll ride by this way again tomorrow. I’ll stop by and we can decide when.”
She made no protest, only lowered her eyes and said nothing. Her reaction was puzzling to Joe.
“Are you OK?” he said concerned. He raised his hand as if to touch her face. His fingers were almost brushing her cheek. She looked at him, her eyes the eyes of a startled fawn……
And suddenly she simply wasn’t there.
Joe found himself reaching out to touch empty air.
Startled into breathlessness, he stood frozen for a moment. When he began to look around him again the first thing he noticed was that the ladle hanging on the nail by the well….was rusty.
Moving slowly, groping for understanding, he made his way up onto the porch. He reached out to take hold of the rocking chair where she had sat….and found the rotting wood breaking apart in his hand. More confused than ever he moved to the door and, finding it unlocked, slowly pushed it open. Hesitantly sticking his head inside he found the room to be almost empty except for a simple table and two chairs. A door in the far wall opened into a back room, which he presumed was meant to be a bedroom. The only furnishings there were a small cot and a wardrobe which stood against the side wall. Feeling as if he were caught up in a dream, Joe reached out to grasp the knob on the wardrobe. He opened it….and froze again.
There hung the blue dress that the girl of his vision had worn.
The color was somewhat faded and the long sleeves showed several small holes made by moths, but there was no mistaking it.
Suddenly feeling the need to get out into the open air, Joe turned and moved quickly back into the front room. A gust of warm air came in through the outside door, picking up a stray piece of paper on the floor and blowing it against his leg. He squatted down to pick it up.
It proved to be a badly faded newspaper clipping including a small sketch. Joe gasped as he recognized the girl in the image. The caption identified her as Kelly Norwood. His eyes eagerly drank in the accompanying story, which told how 19 year old Kelly Norwood had been tragically killed when her father’s shotgun had accidentally discharged, the bullet striking her in the head. His numbed mind finally took in the date of the story. The event had occurred precisely twenty years earlier….to the day.
Joe began to tremble. He rose quickly and hurried outside. Cochise was standing quietly where his master had left him. With a sense of relief Joe grabbed his reins, mounted quickly and turned him around to go. In his mind he was resolving never to mention what had just happened to anyone, lest they should think him mad. He did not look back.
If he had he might have caught one last glimpse of the girl in the blue dress as she stood on the porch and looked sadly after the young man who would never come again.